A long black limo pulled up and parked by the curb. The driver walked around the vehicle and opened the door for them.
When Bridgette crouched down to enter, Calvin noticed a handgun tucked away in her purse. He stopped where he stood.
“All aboard the S.S. Jackhammer!” said Brody.
Cheers and laughter followed, along with a few clanks of bottles and glasses.
“Hey, can I talk to you about something?” Calvin said to Bridgette, his wife.
“Uh-oh, he’s getting cold feet, you were right about this guy!” said Brody.
“You’re not even inside, and you already want to argue?” said Bridgette.
The laughter and chatter died down.
“It’s just…” said Calvin. “When did you get… Are we going someplace dangerous?”
For a moment the limo went quiet. Then Brody let out an explosive chuckle, yanked Calvin inside by his tie, and everybody returned to their previous festive mood.
“Grab a drink guy, lighten up. It’s Friday!”
Bridgette laughed. She took the seat right beside Brody. Calvin moved around at a hunch until he squeezed in between two women.
“Name’s Calvin by the way.”
“What’s that?” said Brody.
“My name is Calvin. We haven’t met before. I’m a firefighter.” He scratched under his jaw. “You know, my name isn’t guy.”
Brody raised an eyebrow.
“Ignore him. He’s a party-pooper.” Said Bridgette.
“No, no,” said Brody. “I’m a stand-up guy myself. My name is Brody, and it’s a pleasure to meet you, Calvin. Your wife has nothing but wonderful things to say about you.”
“Oh, that’s a surprise,” he said with a laugh. Everybody chuckled along with him.
While the party guests indulged in the jovial mood, Calvin sat with his knees pressed together. He reached into his pocket for his phone, and started to text Bridgette.
When did you buy a gun?
“Baby, hold this for me!” Bridgette tossed her phone through the air.
Calvin made a jerky move to catch it. He wanted to ask her out loud, but her eyes darted to every spot he wasn’t.
Calvin shook his head, then slipped Bridgette’s phone into his other pocket. When he did, he inadvertently elbow-jabbed the breast beside him. Calvin instantly crossed his arms close to his chest, then sighed, shut his eyes, and let his head droop backward.
“I’m here, in my mold,” he muttered to himself.
“But I’m a million different people, from one day to the next.”
Calvin’s eyes shot open. The woman who he’d just bumped into had sung the rest of the verse.
“Bittersweet symphony?” said Calvin.
“I know, don’t you hate that song? Slaves to money then we die? Sorry, but money equals happiness.”
Calvin raised his eyebrows and grinned politely.
“That was a joke… kind of a bad one. Not sure where the laugh goes. The verve? Please. I love that song.” She mumble-sang the melody and bobbed her head.
Nothing about her screamed super-model. Especially not the freckles spotting both her dimpled cheeks. But she was… simple. And simple was better than ideal. A lot better.
“Another bottle,” Shea!” said Brody.
The woman beside Calvin nodded, then reached into a cooler and took out some Pinot Noir.
“Throw it,” said Brody.
“Well I don’t want to break-”
“Throw it, throw it, throw it!” began Brody, slapping his hands to his thighs. The rest of the party followed his lead, while Calvin had his eyes on Shea. She blinked rapidly, shook her head, then chucked it like it were a dead rat over to Brody. He and Bridgette tried to grab it at the same time, and in their haste they knocked the bottle straight to the floor, where it shattered. Wine spilled over Brody’s slacks and Bridgette’s ankles. The cheer halted.
“Dammit Shea,” said Brody. He fanned out his wet hands.
“Shit, I knew I shouldn’t have thrown it. I’m so sorry.”
“Oh, don’t you worry doll. Brody bought more than enough,” said Bridgette. She flashed a picture-perfect smile.
Calvin twisted his lips, then pressed out the creases in his slacks.
“I know, I’m clumsy. Here, I’ll pass you another,” said Shea.
She retrieved a new bottle from the cooler. Brody crouched low then made ‘chuga-chuga’ sound effects as if he were a train, and ‘chugged’ over to her.
“Hey, here’s an idea? Why don’t you just hand it to me?” He chuckled loud, then snagged the bottle from Shea. “You’re the best,” he said, then returned back to his seat beside Bridgette. He popped open the bottle, then poured those around him a glass. He met eyes with Calvin, who sat with his arms crossed.
“Would you like a glass?”
Calvin scratched under his jaw. “This is your wife, right?”
Brody glanced at her, then tugged his lip corners up with his cheeks. “How truly awful of me… I’ve been so excited to have fun tonight, formal introductions must have slipped my mind. Calvin, you’re sitting next to my wife, Shea.”
Calvin nodded with his tongue pushed into his teeth.
“Hi,” said Shea. She held out her hand, but Calvin’s eyes were trained on Brody.
“I’m not used to these events, so help me understand… why am I sitting next to your wife, while you’re sitting by mine?”
Bridgette glared at Calvin. Brody raised his eyebrows. The other party guests quietly sipped their drinks.
Brody opened his mouth, but Bridgette grabbed hold of his wrist.
“You don’t have to answer that,” she said. “Calvin… babe? This an adult event. Try to act like one.”
“It’s ok, B-ridge,” said Brody, returning Bridgette’s hand to her lap. “Now Calvin, it’s my fault for not giving you the four-one-one, but typically at events like this, you actually don’t use any seating charts. Had I known you would have felt more comfortable, I would have been happy to draw one up for you.”
Many of the party guests bit their lips. A few chuckles escaped.
“B-ridge?” said Calvin. “What’s that, your pet name for my wife?”
Bridgette’s palm smacked against her forehead. Brody wore a tight-lipped smile.
“Why don’t you tone it down a notch, huh guy? You didn’t pay for this limo. You don’t know anybody here. You wouldn’t even be here if weren’t for B-ridge. So take a drink, and enjoy the good vibes.”
Calvin mirrored Brody’s tight-lipped grin. “Sounds radical.”
Shea rubbed Calvin’s kneecap, then whispered in his ear. “Just ignore him.”
Calvin turned and they met eyes.
Shea darted her hand back, shook her head, then scratched behind her ear. She turned to Brody and smiled. “I’d like a drink!”
Brody’s eyes fidgeted between her and Calvin. “…sure.”
To be continued…
- Thomas M. Watt